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Editorial: A sobering assessment

Looking ahead to the presidential election in 2012, it’s difficult for many of us in Vermont to believe that any of the Republican candidates we’ve seen so far have a message Americans want to follow. President Obama, while taking a beating in national polls right now, still stands a good chance of being re-elected — right?
Well, hold onto your seat. Political columnist Eric Davis (see this page) analyzes the likely breakout of electoral college votes and it’s not looking good for the president. It is likely, Davis writes, that the president could fall short by a state, while the Republican candidate is likely to win 276 votes — 10 more than needed.
That’s sobering.
Davis says, of course, that the assessment is now, not November 2012 — when it counts. But it’s a heads-up for Democrats who, rather than be discouraged, might want to start hosting coffees.
And there is hope.
In launching what many pundits called his first volley of the presidential campaign, President Obama announced plans a couple weeks ago to reduce the national deficit by more than $3 trillion within the decade through spending cuts as well as a higher income tax on the wealthy.
While $1 trillion would come from ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and another $580 billion would come in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, the president made it clear that $1.5 trillion must come from a combination of raising taxes on the super-rich and closing tax loopholes for corporations. One likely scenario would be to impose the so-called “Buffett rule,” named after billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who has consistently ridiculed the fact that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. He wants income taxes on the wealthy raised, and one way to do that is to create a minimum tax for those earning $1,000,000 or more a year.
The Republican leadership has responded predictably saying they will oppose any tax increase on income. But, you have to wonder, why?
There are only about 22,000 Americans who make that kind of money. That’s 0.0002 of the number of tax filers nationwide. There are so few of them that even if they were forced to pay double what they do now, it would only raise an additional $19 billion. And yet they have enormous clout. The discrepancy of income in the country is greater than it’s been in more than a century, as the richest 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation’s total income.
As a political strategist, you have to ask why Republicans would risk public anger to defend such a small segment of the population over something that is so obviously unequal? And you can bet Obama will use the issue to demonstrate how far out of touch Republicans are with the average American, and to question their judgment on any other issue as well.
Perhaps, the GOP leadership will concede the issue sooner rather than later, but if they do not, you can bet Obama will drive this point home — and others like it — at every stop along the campaign trail. If he’s effective, just maybe he’ll pick up that extra state he so desperately needs.
Angelo S. Lynn

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